Friday, February 10, 2012

Frugal Friday: Keeping a well-stocked pantry

This week I've been talking a lot about winter squash - specifically hubbard, but today I'm going to talk about another kind of hubbard...

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard
to fetch her poor dog a bone.
But when she got there the cupboard was bare
and so the poor dog had none.

I'm sure most of us have had the experience of going to the cupboard to get an ingredient that we think we have. It's 20 minutes before dinner and the kids are hungry and whiny. When we open the cupboard, we realize, just like Old Mother Hubbard that we are completely out of that ingredient. Panic strikes and then we have to decide:
  1. Do I run to the store to get what I need? Towing all the children along with me?
  2. Do I make something else, even though I'm halfway into this recipe and the kids are starving?
  3. Do I call the neighbors and see if they have what I need?
  4. Do I call my husband and ask him to pick up some fast food takeout on his way home?
Any choice we make will cost more in time and/or money than we were planning on. Not to mention added stress and frustration.

So what is the answer to help prevent this scenario from happening? There are two answers really that help solve the problem - meal planning and keeping a well-stocked pantry. But today I'd like to talk specifically about keeping a well-stocked pantry.

What do I mean by keeping a well-stocked pantry?
Let me be clear here that by keeping a well-stocked pantry, I'm not talking about stockpiling things that you don't need. If you read my last frugal Friday post about how how to save money without coupons,  you probably realize that I'm a huge advocate for NOT spending money on things that aren't necessary. So what I mean by a well-stocked pantry is this: keeping extra staples that you use often and regularly in your pantry at all times. You have to use common sense here. Don't go out an buy a 5 lb. bag of turmeric when you only have one recipe that uses it and no one in your family likes it anyway. On the other hand, if you use 10 lbs. of flour a week, make sure you have more than 10 lbs. of flour in your pantry at any given time - much more if you can.

Why should I worry about keeping a well-stocked pantry?
I've already listed some of the main reasons why keeping a well-stocked pantry is important, but in case you're not convinced, here's a bit more detailed list:
  1. Can Save You Time - Stocking up your pantry can save you time as long as don't go extreme about it. It can help you so that you don't need to shop as much. It can help so that you don't need make as many emergency trips to the store.
  2. Can Save You Money - Stocking up your pantry can save you money because if you have a supply of something you can more easily go without having to pay full price for things. Now while I'm not an advocate for couponing, I am an advocate for saving money and one of the ways I do that is buy a lot of the items that I use when they are at their best price. You can find lists of these types of things all over the internet. But if you pay attention, you can figure them out yourself. You'll notice what times of year certain things cost less and you'll stock up your pantry on those items during those times. Again, being careful not to stock up your pantry with things that will expire sooner than you'll use them or things that you don't use. Stocking up your pantry won't save you money if it ends up going to waste!
  3. Can Lower Stress & Give You Peace of Mind - When you have food in your pantry to feed your family, you have peace of mind. You don't have to worry about whether you have enough flour in your canister to make bread sticks for dinner because you know you have another bag in the pantry in case you run out. That's stress relieving and relieving stress is so important in creating a healthy family.
How do I keep my pantry stocked?
Well I don't know the best way for you, but here's how I do it. I make a list of the items that I use on a regular basis and decide how much of that item I want to keep on hand at any given time. For example, if I use a lot of cans of corn in my cooking I might decide I want to keep 10 cans of corn in my pantry at any given time. Since corn doesn't go on sale every month, I might buy 24 cans just to make sure I still have 10 before the next sale comes around (usually about every 3-6 months). Then you can mark it on a long-term grocery list when you use a can of corn so when they go on sale you know how many you should buy. If that's too much work to do it every time (it is for me!), then you can just regularly take inventory before the sale comes around so you know how many you need to buy. If you do it that way, make sure you keep a large enough quantity to ensure that you don't run out before the sale comes. If you find that you still had 23 cans when the next sale came around either donate some to your local food drive so you make sure it doesn't go to waste or eat more corn instead of other vegetables in the next few months. Just make sure to adjust your quantity for next time to reflect what your family uses and don't buy more than that, even if it's on a really good sale. It just takes practice to get it all right, but you can do it. And it's worth it.

Now I realize you might be asking yourself, so what should I put on my list? What kinds of things should I keep in my pantry all the time? I'm sure yours will be different than mine, but in a future Frugal Friday post I'll share mine with you, to give you a head start. Meanwhile, start by buying a couple of extra things that you use when you see them go on sale, and you'll be in a better shape than you were before! Remember, don't pull a Mother Hubbard on your family, keep your pantry stocked!

Here's a sneak preview tour of my pantry space...notice all the drawers are shut! that's because it's not organized at the moment...but it will be - - and hopefully soon!

Here are my cute little spice cabinets where I keep all the spices that I use on a regular basis

Here's our main pantry in the kitchen with storage shelves above where I also keep food. "Hi Mom!" says J.
Linked to: Frugal Friday, Finer Things Friday, Hearts 4 Home

4 comments:

Mom2fur said...

"A five pound bag of turmeric"--LOL! (Sorry, I thought that was funny.)

I don't like to drive so having a well-stocked pantry is a blessing for those days I don't feel like lugging over to the grocery store. The best thing is that you usually can find something to 'substitute' if you don't have a particular ingredient.
I sound like a broken record when I reply to posts like yours, but I'll say it again: check out "Supercook.com" It is a site where you can plug in what you have on hand and it gives you back a gazillion recipes you can make!

Bama Girl said...

Thanks for sharing this post. I always enjoy reading about how people keep their pantry stocked. I'm enjoying filling my with home canned goods. I still have lots of store bought canned goods, though. Got any tips for long term food storage, like for emergencies? Blessings from Bama!

melissa@joyineveryseason said...

i never say "so tell my about your pantry and how you grocery shop..." but i always wonder how other moms do it. great ideas ... thanks!

Heather {Healthy Family Cookin} said...

Thanks everyone! Bama Girl, here's some posts I've done about Food storage for emergencies:

http://healthyfamilycookin.blogspot.com/2009/01/eat-what-you-store-or-store-what-you.html

http://healthyfamilycookin.blogspot.com/2009/01/why-store-food.html

More will be coming I'm sure!

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